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Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 18

Phytother Res


Efficacy and safety of topical capsaicin in the treatment of osteoarthritis pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis.


Tshering G, Posadzki P, Kongkaew C


Osteoarthritis (OA) affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The objective was to critically appraise the efficacy and safety of topical capsaicin in reducing pain in OA. MEDLINE (PubMed) and Embase (Ebsco) were searched from inceptions until February 2023. The eligibility criteria included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), evaluating topical capsaicin in OA patients. Standard Cochrane methods were used to extract data and to appraise eligible studies. Eight double-blind RCTs involving 498 patients were included. Five trials (62.5%) were at an overall low risk of bias, and three (37.5%) were at a high risk of bias. Meta-analysis showed that, in various OA patients, compared with placebo, topical capsaicin (0.0125%-5%) may reduce pain severity measured with visual analog scale (standardized mean difference = -0.84, 95% confidence intervals [CIs] = -1.48 to -0.19, p = 0.01; eight studies). However, topical capsaicin may increase burning sensation at the application site (risk ratio = 5.56, 95% CI = 1.75-17.69, p = 0.004, numbers needed to harm = 3; five studies) when compared with placebo. Limitations include short study durations, small sample sizes, high heterogeneity, and overall low-to-very-low certainty of the evidence. Topical capsaicin may reduce OA pain at follow-ups of up to 3 months. Larger trials, potentially evaluating capsaicin in combination with phytopharmaceuticals having anti-inflammatory effects, with longer follow-ups might be needed to reduce the existing uncertainties. Topical capsaicin might be recommended for short-term management of pain in OA patients intolerant to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.